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State lawmakers agree to end police sex loophole

    Police are currently legally allowed to have sex with prostitutes in Hawaii.

State lawmakers in both chambers agree that legal permission for police to have sex with prostitutes should end.

House and Senate members are still negotiating on the version of House Bill 1926 they will send to the governor. But they concur that the crime bill should revoke a peculiar exemption that permits police in Hawaii, in the course of their duties, to have sex with prostitutes.

The bill began in the House and was amended as it passed out of that chamber’s Judicial Committee. At the time, Honolulu police told lawmakers that vice officers needed the exemption in law to prevent pimps and prostitutes from knowing the limits of police methods.

Rep. Karl Rhoads, the Democratic chairman of that committee, said Thursday that he now wants to return to the bill’s original language regarding the exemption. It would bar police from engaging in sex or sadomasochistic acts with prostitutes.

In the joint conference committee, Democratic Sen. Clayton Hee, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, needled his counterpart in the House as he moved through the agenda to HB 1926. "The next one," Hee said, "is the Karl Rhoads Memorial Bill."

The Associated Press wrote about the successful police lobbying against removing the sex exemption after the bill passed the House. When the Senate Judiciary Committee took up the bill, lawmakers revised it again to reflect the backlash against the exemption, with many expressing strong convictions that police should not have the legal ability to bed prostitutes.

Honolulu police, while assuring the public that their internal policies prevent such abuse, dropped their opposition to removing the exemption.

The discrepancy between the House and the Senate drafts of the bill meant members of the two chambers were obliged to reconcile the versions into one document, a common legislative step. Once the House and Senate settle on a final version and vote on it, Gov. Neil Abercrombie must sign the bill to make it law.

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